(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s long-awaited opening of its stock market to foreigners will be “gradual”, the country’s capital market regulator said on Tuesday.
“It is still within our strategy, but it should be done in an orderly and gradual manner to make sure it does not impact the market’s stability,” Abdulrahman al-Tuwaijri, chairman of the Capital Market Authority (CMA), said at a meeting with executives from listed companies that was attended by reporters.
“This gradual manner will happen, but we need time to make it happen in a safe and orderly manner. We also need to make sure it will not have any negative impact on the market.”
The plan to widen foreign access to Saudi shares via limited direct ownership has helped to boost the stock market in the last several months. Analysts have predicted the market, the largest in the Arab world, could open this year, but the CMA has not given a date and Tuwaijri did not say anything concrete about timing on Tuesday.
Foreigners can already buy Saudi shares through swap deals made by international investment banks, and via a small number of exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
The CMA is considering allowing qualified foreign investors to take a capped share in each Saudi company, with international buyers able to own a total of around 20 percent of the market’s value, according to proposals circulated to the financial industry last year.
“Foreign investors already exist in the market through swap agreements…also ETFs are available for foreign investors,” Tuwaijri noted at the meeting in the offices of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce.
“The percentage of foreign investors is still low at 3-4 percent,” he added.